Remarkable: ‘Worthy of attention; striking;’
Stumbling upon writing
I started journaling out of a desire to clarify my thoughts; to get things down on paper so they didn’t form a frenzied mess in my head. However interesting or mundane a thought, the simple act of writing it down seemed to instantly calm my over-active mind.
Every few months, a short journal entry would get out of control. I would continue writing until a whole blog post took form on the page without any conscious control over it.
I published two or three on Medium when an egotistical urge for recognition struck me or when something, like the Brexit result, angered me.
I put them out into the infinite depths of the internet & forgot about it.
A few months ago I looked through my Medium account to realise that 250 people had read one particular post. I hadn’t publicised it – I remember writing a short post on Facebook (under a comment like ‘My two cents on Brexit’) & that was my marketing done.
Now 250 readers, most of whom probably didn’t read more than a paragraph, does not mean I will be going for the Pulitzer Prize any time soon, but it’s a start.
It made me realise that there are people who find value in my writing. They have – I hope – considered my thoughts & amalgamated them into their own complex web of thoughts & beliefs.
It made me realise that there is at least somebody out there like me, that has similar questions they want answering, that is actively looking for those answers & that, I hope, finds some solace from my attempts at answering some of the questions life throws up at us.
Most people don’t bother writing because some things seem obvious to us. We don’t really see the point.
However, what may seem obvious to me is, in fact, remarkable to others. I forget that my experiences are unique, so my perspective is unique. My knowledge & opinions form a unique voice that is very much different from any other person, let alone writer, on the planet. It then seemed logical for me to share that unique voice with whoever is interested in hearing it.
And then self-doubt struck like a wave:
“I’m not a writer. I don’t write. I just put some words into my journal at a whim.
I’m not qualified for this. Who am I, with my unused degree in Politics & Spanish? Where’s my MBA from Stanford? What do I know about psychology? About politics? About anything?”
Why I write
And then, after the self-doubt rationally returned & I realised my response was typical of the ‘Imposter Syndrome’, where we have a tendency to feel under-qualified or to attribute success to luck rather than individual merit. I then found myself asking the question:
“Well, who really is qualified? What does that even mean?”
If you write, then you are a writer. If people read your content & learn something from it, then you are a successful writer. It’s as simple as that.
The qualifications don’t matter with writing. When did they ever matter other than to lend you a sense of grandiosity & self-importance? To give you society’s stamp of approval that you are one of the lucky few able to pursue this path?
Yes, there are hundreds of experts on behavioural psychology, there are thousands of business gurus & endless productivity hacks around. They are better in their way, but they do not have my voice. As long as I don’t try to categorise myself as something I’m not – & mimic somebody else’s voice -then I will always have a unique voice.
It’s not better than anyone else, but it’s different from everyone else.
All that matters is that somebody, somewhere finds your writing remarkable – and I use the word ‘remarkable’ in the definitive sense: ‘worthy of attention; striking.’
It means you don’t need to have a global audience or a New York Times Bestseller. All it means is that you need one person to stop & pay attention. Just one person to stop, read your work & re-consider their belief system in some way.
With that realisation, I find my writing liberated from self-limiting beliefs. I write what I want, on what I want, with a new-found sense of confidence.
If the whole world turned around & told me my writing was crap*, then who cares? As long as it interests me, then I’ve still got an audience.
An audience of you
I would even suggest starting with a readership of one: yourself.
Journaling has been one of the most transformative habits in my life, improving my well-being enormously. Your mental clarity improves & evidence suggests you are a less stressed, happy person because of this daily habit.
Try the following steps for 2 weeks & see whether you find value in your own writing:
1. Download the ‘Bear’ or ‘Evernote’ note-taking apps on your phone and/or laptop
2. Set a 5-minute reminder in your calendar for when you wake up to journal.
3. Write for 2-5 minutes in your journal on anything & everything that comes to mind. Some days you’ll write a mundane line or two, others you’ll find yourself writing a mini-essay. It doesn’t matter what the result, as long as you’re getting thoughts down on the page**
4. After the two weeks, read over your entries & consider the psychological improvements you will hopefully have noticed
5. Continue the habit for a life-time
Not only will you be improving your current life, but you may find it starts a whole new chapter.
* One of the most under-used words in the English dictionary, in my opinion, to describe something that’s a bit worse than ‘bad’ but not quite ‘shit’.
** Here are a couple of my very mundane journal entries, just so you don’t feel you need to write a masterpiece on your first attempt:
“A fairly uneventful day that blurs into yesterday and tomorrow. Although I am still motivated to work at home, I think it’s really important to start walking everyday and work outside of the house at least for half the day, so I’ll start this tomorrow morning rather than procrastinate.” (2016/1/2)
“I definitely had a moment where work was a bit overwhelming yesterday, so I’ve got to get on top of it all today. I’ll also start thinking of ways of rewarding/punishing myself for failed tasks. E.g. If I finish all my work early then having the day off or sacrificing a social event if I’m unproductive?” (2016/1/10)